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9 Myths About the FSA ID

June 22, 2017 - 12:56pm

The FSA ID is a username and password that students, parents, and borrowers must use to log on to certain U.S. Department of Education websites such as fafsa.gov, StudentAid.gov, and StudentLoans.gov. The FSA ID is a secure way to access and sign important documents without using personally identifiable information.

Log-in options on fafsa.gov

Log-in options on StudentAid.gov

Log-in options on StudentLoans.gov

As with any new process, there are some myths floating around about creating and using an FSA ID. Let’s tackle some of those myths right now…

Myth #1:

It’ll take a long time to create my FSA ID.

On average, it takes about seven minutes to create an FSA ID. Federal Student Aid has a variety of resources, such as this helpful video, that walk you through each step of creating an FSA ID.


Myth #2:

Only students need to create an FSA ID.

If you are a dependent student, then your parent will need his or her own FSA ID in order to sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form electronically. That’s because you will need to provide your parent’s information on your FAFSA form, and your parent will need to sign the FAFSA form as well. But here is something very important: Your parent must create his or her own, separate FSA ID. Your parent shouldn’t use your FSA ID, and you shouldn’t create an FSA ID for your parent.

If you’re not sure whether you’re a dependent student, visit StudentAid.gov/dependency.

Myth #3:

It’s okay to let someone else create or use my FSA ID.

Not okay. Each individual person needs to create his or her own FSA ID. If you’re a parent, you should NOT create an FSA ID for your child. If you’re a student, you should NOT create an FSA ID for your parent. Why? For example, if a parent tries to create both the parent’s and child’s FSA IDs, it’s easy to mix up information such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and usernames and passwords. Because we verify your information with the Social Security Administration, it’s crucial that this information be correct. Also, if someone else creates your FSA ID, how will you know the answers to your challenge questions if you need to retrieve a forgotten username or password?

Most importantly, FSA IDs are used to sign legally binding documents, so giving someone access to your FSA ID is like allowing them to forge your signature. Be sure to create your own FSA ID, and save yourself the trouble.

Myth #4:

I need an email address or mobile phone number to create an FSA ID.

You do NOT need an email address or mobile phone number to create an FSA ID. If you don’t have an email address or mobile phone number, you can leave those fields blank. However, adding this information is strongly recommended. Once your email address is verified, you can enter your email address instead of your username when you log in. You can also use your email address or mobile phone number to retrieve your forgotten username or password or to unlock your account. It’s easy to update and verify your email address or mobile phone number by going to fsaid.ed.gov and clicking on the “Manage My FSA ID” tab.

Manage My FSA ID tab

Myth #5:

As a parent, I can use the same email address or mobile phone number for both my FSA ID and my child’s FSA ID.

An email address or mobile phone number cannot be used with more than one FSA ID. If you’re a student and you choose to provide an email address and/or mobile phone number when creating your FSA ID, you’ll need to include your own email address and/or mobile phone number. Your parent will need to include his or her own email address and/or mobile phone number when creating his or her FSA ID. If you don’t have an email address or mobile phone number, you can leave those fields blank.

Myth #6:

I need an FSA ID to fill out the FAFSA® form.

The fastest way to sign and submit your FAFSA form is to use an FSA ID. That said, if you or your parent don’t have an FSA ID, you can still submit the FAFSA form. If you fill out the FAFSA form online but don’t have an FSA ID, you can choose the option to submit your FAFSA form without signatures, and then print and mail a signature page. If you can’t fill out the FAFSA form online, you have other options.

Students without access to a computer can receive FAFSA assistance from a wide range of college access organizations, such as the National College Access Network; a student can also visit a local library, use a computer at school, or get help from a school counselor.

Myth #7:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has to verify my information before I can use my FSA ID.

If you’re filling out a FAFSA form for the first time, you can use your newly created FSA ID to sign and submit your FAFSA form right away. But, if you need to submit a renewal FAFSA form or make corrections after you’ve submitted your FAFSA form, you first have to wait for the SSA to verify your identity before you can use your new FSA ID. The verification process takes one to three days.

When creating your FSA ID, make sure to enter your information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card to avoid delays. Once your information is verified, you can use your FSA ID to submit your renewal FAFSA form, make corrections, access your loan history, and a host of other things.

If you’re a parent, you never have to wait for the SSA match to sign your child’s FAFSA form. However, if you sign the FAFSA form when your SSA match status is listed as “pending” and it later returns “no match,” we will remove your signature from your child’s FAFSA form. If that happens, you will either need to resolve the conflict with the SSA and sign electronically again, or you’ll need to print and mail a signature page.

Myth #8:

Confirming my email address or mobile phone number can take up to 24 hours.

You should receive your mobile phone verification code and email confirmation within three minutes. If you don’t, your email account’s spam filter could be the culprit. It’s a good idea to add the FSA ID email address—FSA-ID@ed.gov—to your address book to make sure you get your confirmation.

Myth #9:

I forgot my password, and it’s going to take 30 minutes to reset it.

The easiest way to reset your password is by using your verified email address or verified mobile phone number. If you reset your password using one of these options, you can use your FSA ID immediately. You have to wait 30 minutes only if you reset your password using your challenge questions.

There are lots of resources online to help you create and use your FSA ID; visit StudentAid.gov/fsaid for more FSA ID information. In no time, you’ll have your very own FSA ID too!

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The post 9 Myths About the FSA ID appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

John F. Kennedy Centennial Celebration an Opportunity to Strengthen Civic Engagement

June 15, 2017 - 1:03pm

“Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You – Ask What You Can Do For Your Country.” – President John F. Kennedy, 1961

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the birth of one of the most celebrated presidents in our nation’s history, John F. Kennedy. To commemorate the occasion, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation has launched a year-long initiative to honor his legacy by encouraging youth to get more involved in their communities, and to better understand how government works.

The move is in response to the alarming decline in young people who understand their rights and responsibilities as members of a vibrant, free society, and who participate in civic life today. The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation believes that increasing awareness through a more involved citizenry is critical to the future of a fully functioning democracy.

“If young people are not aware of how government works they will not get involved, have faith in government or vote at the same rates,” said Steve Rothstein, Executive Director of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Recent statistics bear this out:

  • When John Kennedy was in office, Pew Research findings showed that 75 percent of Americans trusted their government. Last year, according to a comparable study, public confidence had plummeted to 19 percent.
  • Tufts University’s Tisch School reported that, in 2014, voter turnout among young people, which failed to reach 20 percent, was the lowest it has been in 40 years. What’s more, the same study says that the proportion of youth registered to vote — just 46.7% — is also at a 40-year low.

To promote civic engagement, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation have teamed up to prepare non-partisan and free online-educational resources that focus on government and civics during the Kennedy administration.

One of President Kennedy’s most enduring legacies was his clarion call to all Americans to take ownership of their government by getting more involved. In his famous inaugural address, he called upon American citizens to be stakeholders in making the United States and the world a better place. He encouraged others – whether they considered themselves “citizens of America or citizens of  the world” — to think deeply about how we can help and what we can share.

“President Kennedy inspired a generation that transformed America – and they in turn passed that inspiration on to their children and grandchildren,” said Jack Schlossberg, President Kennedy’s grandson. “Now, as we mark the Centennial of my grandfather’s birth, we renew his call for service, courage, innovation, and inclusion, and help a new generation use his example to embrace the challenges of our time.”

More information on the initiative, how to get involved, and educational resources are available at the links below:

JFK Centennial


About the Centennial

JFK Library – Education

JFK Library – Resources

Patrick Kerr is a writer on the Office of Communications and Outreach communications development team.

Photo at the top: President John F. Kennedy (at lectern) delivers an address on world peace and nuclear disarmament during commencement exercises at American University. Left to right: Reverend Warren H. Bright, Jr., Minister of Glenwood Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio; Reverend Charles R. Smyth, Headmaster of the Pennington School in Pennington, New Jersey (mostly hidden behind American flag); John S. Myers, Dean of Washington School of Law (seated in back, partially hidden); unidentified; President Kennedy; and Donald Derby, Dean of Administration (mostly hidden, right of lectern). John M. Reeves Athletic Center, American University, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Cecil Stoughton, White House/John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston.

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Categories: Higher Education News

“What Is Education?” Elevated Thought Students Respond Via the Arts

June 13, 2017 - 2:28pm

For students from Lawrence, Massachusetts, the answer to “What is education?” comes best through the arts — painting, drawing, photography, narrative, poetry, music, and film – and through their own context as passionate learners in a historically immigrant, low-income community north of Boston.

Eight Lawrence students, along with their adult mentors from Elevated Thought and the Mayor’s Health Task Force, came to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in Washington, D.C. in mid-May for the opening of the students’ art exhibit, on view at ED through June. They also came to demonstrate what student voices can contribute to a community’s renewal and to learn from ED’s leaders about how best to exercise their Youth Bill of Rights.

Lawrence, with a population of 76,000, has a colorful but bleak history: governmental turbulence; high poverty, unemployment and crime; and failing schools. When Lawrence schools were placed under state receivership in 2011, average math and English test scores positioned students in the bottom 1 percent statewide, and the high school dropout rate was 52 percent. In March 2012, Lawrence was described in a Boston magazine article highlighting the city’s drug trade and controversial politics as “the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts.”

By most accounts, Lawrence is rebounding. It has a new superintendent with an ambitious school turn-around plan, test scores are up, and the dropout rate is down. In addition, Lawrence has new leadership, new initiatives, and widespread community involvement in rejuvenation efforts. Still, the students’ visual art reflects a mix of hope and frustration.

Senior Celeste Cruz used paint and markers to create a person of color with a tree sprouting from the figure’s head. “The piece represents knowledge and growth nurtured in the minds of people of all colors,” she explained, including those with skin tones considered “alien” to this country. (About 75 percent of residents and 90 percent of public school students in Lawrence are Hispanic.)

Artwork of senior Celeste Cruz conveys that all people, regardless of their origins, can gain knowledge and grow.

Amaryllis Lopez, a Lawrence High School graduate and Elevated Thought youth leader, made a mixed media piece featuring a woman of color and these words: “Dream Your Way Out of the Nightmare.” “Sometimes your dreams have to transcend your situation — in this case an unsatisfactory education system — in order [for you] to be freed, to overcome and to achieve,” she said.

A mixed media piece by Amaryllis Lopez signifies that dreams may conquer adverse circumstances.

A painting from senior Nicole Garcia contains a brightly colored, abstract head, above which is written, “I’m Brilliant. Yo soy. I am intelligencia.” She created the piece to raise questions about what it means to be “smart” and “intelligent” in modern society.

A painting by student Nicole Garcia explores what it means to be intelligent in today’s world.

Student voices, in whatever their form, can broaden adult perspectives, Elecia Miller, project officer for the City of Lawrence Mayor’s Health Task Force, noted during ED’s celebration. “As much as [adults] care about youth in our city, we are not youth, and we do not necessarily know what the issues of the day are, or how to address them.”

This belief undergirds the work of two organizations, both with representatives at the ED gathering, that provide youth empowerment activities:

  • Elevated Thought is a Lawrence-based non-profit that serves and develops communities through, among other things, youth engagement; it stresses the arts’ power to generate awareness of social and community issues. Its current youth-driven campaign is “What Is Education? Liberation Through Education.”
  • The Lawrence Youth Council, created under the Mayor’s Health Task Force, gives the community’s youths a voice and advocates for their issues.

Students at the opening identified what they want changed in Lawrence schools, including high levels of stress, an insufficiently diverse teaching pool, and not enough opportunities to make choices. These and other concerns grew from a 600-student survey.

“Education is supposed to be freedom from oppression, but in reality we come to class and we feel anxiety, we feel as if our [test score] numbers are our identity,” Junielly Vargas, the youth council’s president, said. “We need [adults] to realize that education is more than numbers, more than books, more than letters on the board — it is life, it is family, it is friends, it is experience.”

Senior Junielly Vargas addresses the recent ED gathering to celebrate student arts and voices from Lawrence, Massachusetts.

With such concerns in mind, these students presented at the art opening their four-part Youth Bill of Rights, which they are disseminating widely to trigger more school improvements:

  1. Student needs come first. This requires youth leaders to become more involved in decisions about education and to have their voices heard. Marquis Victor, president and executive director of Elevated Thought, explained, “[School officials] make drastic changes each year, and the youth have no idea what is coming. The changes often don’t work. So the youth say, ‘Why don’t [school officials] talk to the youth? They will know what’s best for them.’”
  2. Students are liberated through their creations. The arts provide students with new ways to see the world. Schools should provide more classes in the arts and incorporate them into the teaching of all subject areas.
  3. Students’ vision is developed with and through their communities. Toward this end, the bridge between schools and the community needs strengthening.
  4. Students’ healthy growth is ensured. Greater emphasis on physical, mental and spiritual health can help students learn and mature. Improvements can begin with better school lunches which, one student observed, “look radioactive.”

Lawrence students cut the ribbon to signify the official opening of their art exhibit at ED.

At the end of the students’ day showcasing the power of their work in the arts to transform thinking about education, Jason Botel, ED’s deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, shared his admiration for the students’ accomplishments, the implementation of their critical thinking skills, and their courage. “You’re giving voice, color and form to your experiences in education and as community members,” he said. “In the process, you’re educating all of us.” He also shared his understanding of what he heard from them – that, while their road forward may be difficult, education and student development are processes in which they will need to exercise their clearly well-developed leadership abilities in order to … keep moving ahead.

Nancy Paulu is an editor and writer in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

All photos are by U.S. Department of Education photographer Leslie Williams.

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public space that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov or visit https://www.ed.gov/student-art-exhibit

The post “What Is Education?” Elevated Thought Students Respond Via the Arts appeared first on ED.gov Blog.

Categories: Higher Education News

Apprenticeship Program Helps Students Find And Fund Their Passions

June 9, 2017 - 1:31pm

Ask anyone in America what they would expect to see when walking through an American high school, and the last thing they’d probably say is a group of students building a house! Yet that’s exactly what goes on each and every day at the Academy of Construction and Design (ACAD), located at the Integrated Design & Electronics Academy (IDEA) Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.

Late last month, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor were privileged to visit this school. During the visit, several high level officials had the opportunity to see this innovative high school apprenticeship program in action.

The trip was initially arranged to help give officials insight into what makes great Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs tick in light of the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, which requests an additional $20 million to promote innovative CTE programs in STEM fields through CTE National Programs.

“We wanted to see a program on the ground,” said James Manning, Acting Under Secretary of Education. “We want to learn what is working, what challenges are being encountered, and in what ways the Department of Education might be helpful.”

Most of our nation’s apprenticeships are housed in our postsecondary education system, but we know that to truly prepare our workforce, it’s imperative that we begin at the high school level. This is ACAD’s goal.

It doesn’t feel like a traditional school — it has a business oriented environment everywhere you look. We saw a garden that the students maintained, complete with a rain water catcher apparatus that they had built themselves. We saw work rooms and classrooms that were built to educate students to engage in hands-on careers.

And that house that the students were building? It was actually the school’s second, with the goal of ultimately selling it once finished.

At the visit’s conclusion, students, administrators, and private sector supporters engaged in a discussion focusing on the positive effects of this program on students’ lives and how parents need to see CTE as an opportunity for them. Roderic L.Woodson, advisor to the DC Students Construction Trades Foundation and Partner of Holland & Knight, remarked that “too many of our young people have lost sight of the opportunity that comes with building trades and skills that will help them build a life around these careers and a future.”

And the results aren’t just academic – graduates of ACAD are already experiencing the impact that this high-quality program can have on their lives.

During the visit, officials had the opportunity to meet Treymane Chatman, a 2014 ACAD graduate who is currently a carpentry apprentice and will be moving into a full-time role within the carpentry profession later this month. Treymane shared that, as a result of ACAD, he came into the apprenticeship with the skills and knowledge to hit the ground running and handle everything he was asked to do. Treymane hopes to have a general contracting corporation one day and the skills he learned at ACAD and during his apprenticeship will help him get there.


Sam Ryan is Youth Liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education

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Categories: Higher Education News

What the World Can Teach Us: International Lessons on Choice and Innovation in Education

June 8, 2017 - 3:55pm

Every student in the United States deserves a great education. And, every parent in this country – regardless of background, income or zip code – deserves the right to choose the school that is best for his or her child.

To achieve that goal, Secretary DeVos has called for “a transformation that will open up America’s education system.” If we’re going to meet the diverse needs of today’s learners, we need fresh thinking and innovative approaches.  There’s plenty we can learn from other countries, as they strive to prepare their students for 21st century realities.

Those lessons were the subject of a recent briefing at the Department – the first of a new series of learning sessions the Secretary has launched, focused on effective, student-centered education. The speaker was Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Schleicher’s message was simple: Around the world, nations are finding that choice programs can and do contribute to better results for students. If we want school choice to promote equity and excellence for all students, we need to keep it real, relevant, and meaningful. And, we need to ensure parents have the information and support they need to make the right decision for their kids.

Schleicher cites England as an example of a country that’s taken a proactive approach to sharing information with parents about school choice. Here in the United States, several districts – including New Orleans and Denver, which the Secretary highlighted in remarks at the Brookings Institution – provide families transparent access to the information they need to make sound choices on behalf of their children.

“As a parent, you can’t take advantage of a choice you don’t know exists,” said Secretary DeVos in her remarks to Brookings. “We need to find ways of better connecting citizens to the information they need.”

Schleicher also emphasized the fact that countries that provided more autonomy at the school level saw greater student achievement. When those closest to the problem – teachers, parents and administrators – were given greater decision-making power to find solutions, the data showed that students performed at much higher levels.

Some OECD countries, like the Netherlands and Belgium, are implementing safeguards on the national level to increase choice, quality and opportunity for all students, regardless of background. They’re instituting weighted-student funding formulas, which ensure funding follows each student to the school they choose to attend, and calculate the amount provided based on his or her educational and economic needs. This type of funding promotes equity, transparency and flexibility.

Another key point of Schleicher’s is similar to the situation in the United States. Just like every state faces different educational challenges and opportunities, Schleicher asserts that one country can’t just “cut and paste” another’s system. That’s why, in recognition of this reality, the Every Student Succeeds Act allows each state the flexibility to find creative solutions that work best for that state.

We can all learn from Schleicher’s presentation of the facts surrounding choice and innovation in education throughout the world. To learn more, click here.

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Categories: Higher Education News

U.S. Department of Education Launches Revamped IDEA Website

June 1, 2017 - 9:26am

The new and improved Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) website has arrived! During the last two months, more than 130 of you have taken the time to offer thoughtful feedback as to what you would like to see in a revamped IDEA website. Thank you for your important and informative comments.

With your input driving the project, the new site has:

  • Improved Site Navigation and Design
    You asked for a visually-appealing, easier-to-use site that reduces the number of clicks it takes to get you where you need to be. We’ve updated the design and worked to simplify the site’s interface to make locating information more intuitive to the user.
  • Expanded Search Options
    You asked that we keep the statute and regulation search capabilities from the Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004 site but also include a policy document search. We kept the search capabilities, but we updated the search to reflect the most recent statute and regulations. As many of you requested, the search also includes policy documents, such as Dear Colleague letters, OSEP memos, FAQs and policy letters.
  • Resources for Specific Audiences
    You asked that we highlight resources specific to various IDEA stakeholder groups. We’ve created resource pages specific to parents/families, educators/service providers, and grantees. For non-English speakers, we created a Language Support page that links to one of our grantee’s resources in Spanish, and we’ve provided additional information about the Department’s language assistance, which is offered in more than 170 languages.
  • Expanded Content with Streamlined Resources
    You asked that we expand content and streamline the site’s resources covering IDEA and other federal agency-related initiatives. We expanded our Topic Areas page to include more topics with updated information and links to reflect Department and Federal resources as well as resources from the Office of Special Education Programs-funded grantees. We’ve provided links to existing IDEA-related data reports, State Performance Plans/Annual Performance Reports and grant award letters. We’ve highlighted laws and resources related to individuals with disabilities that are under the jurisdiction of other Departments and Federal agencies. We’ve pulled together a list of frequently-used acronyms and terms.

Relevant content from the Legacy site has transitioned to the new IDEA site and the Legacy site will remain online while we continue to refine the new IDEA site.

We would like to get your feedback on the new IDEA website as we continue to develop and enhance the content and functionality.

Your feedback on the site is essential for helping us improve the Department’s online resources as part of our commitment to ensure that infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families have the supports and services guaranteed under the IDEA.

View new IDEA Website

Share your comments on the new IDEA Website

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Categories: Higher Education News

Sixth Cohort of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Announced

May 31, 2017 - 1:00pm

On May 4th, the U.S. Department of Education named the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Across the country, 45 schools, nine districts, and nine postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.

The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states and the Department of Defense Department of Education Activity. The selectees include 39 public schools, including five magnet schools and one charter school, as well as six nonpublic schools. Forty-four percent of the 2017 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body and 14 percent are rural. The postsecondary honorees include three career and technical and community colleges.

Curious what it takes to be a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School? Here are a few of the actions that three of the 2017 honorees are taking.

Whitefish School District, MT

Whitefish School District has prioritized energy efficiency in renovations and lighting upgrades and is in the process of developing an energy conservation plan. The district recently broke ground on a two-story classroom building with attached greenhouse.  Using geothermal and solar production, and including a production garden, an orchard, an experimental forest, and an outdoor classroom, the facility will be the first zero-net energy building in the state, and will serve as a laboratory for sustainable practices.

Curriculum integration will connect learning to local agriculture, forestry, resources management, and entrepreneurship, and aspects of the facility are designed to help students achieve dual credit through institutions of higher education.  Each fall and spring, the district and the city sponsor walk- and bike-to-school events.  New bike routes have been established and road signs placed to ensure student and staff safety.

Whitefish installed water bottle refilling stations and has planted drought-resistant native plantings to minimize irrigation use.  The district has eliminated plastic utensils in the cafeterias, purchased metal silverware, and is transitioning away from the use of Styrofoam.  Whitefish uses its student-maintained gardening space to supply vegetables and herbs to the school district and for educational purposes.  It participates in a farm-to-school program, purchasing meat, dairy, grains, vegetables, and fruits from local farms.

The high school offers activities such as fly fishing, rock climbing, challenge courses, and Nordic and alpine skiing.  Students go on field trips to Glacier National Park, rivers, lakes, and wooded trails to learn ice science, fire ecology, water cycles, and snow safety.  The entire seventh and eighth grade class performs community service during the final week of the school year.  Students engage in citizen science projects researching the health of the local watershed.

Iowa Lakes Community College, Estherville, IA

The Iowa Lakes Community College’s Sustainable Energy Resources and Technologies Center was constructed with geothermal renewable energy systems, controlled lighting and heating systems, and recyclable building materials. Iowa Lakes constructed a Vestas Wind turbine for training purposes, generates much of its energy on-site, and sells all of the electricity from the turbine to the city of Estherville.

End-of-year rummage sales provide the opportunity for students to purchase gently used items for their dormitories or other needs.  Restrooms use automatic hand dryers rather than paper towels.  Food service grease is recycled for bio-diesel, and used oil from equipment is also recycled.

Iowa Lakes addresses faculty and staff wellness through health and wellness events, online financial awareness sessions, money toward fitness club memberships, paid family sick leave and personal sick leave upon hire, and annual health screenings.  Iowa Lakes uses safe, natural products for cleaning, renovation, and pest management and conducts mold testing. Its newly installed HVAC and exhaust systems maintain a healthy learning environment.

The Construction Technology program revolves around sustainable building processes.  Environmental Science and Water Quality and Sustainable Aquatic Resources address preservation, restoration, and management of clean water systems and waste water treatment.

Wind Energy and Turbine Technology courses provide study in wind power generation, distribution, and operations and maintenance.  The 66,000 square-foot garden provides a model for local garden projects throughout northwest Iowa to illustrate the process of growing, storing, processing, and preparing locally-grown foods with community patrons. Head Start students, kindergarten through 12th-grade students, and college students reap the nutritional, social, and economic benefits.

Bethany Christian Schools, Goshen, IN

Bethany Christian Schools has installed roof insulation and a HVAC system in the old portion of the building to improve indoor air quality and heating efficiencies, a geothermal wellfield, a 3.6-kilowatt wind turbine, and solar panels that provide 77 kilowatts of electricity. Restrooms were updated with low-flow fixtures, and hallway and parking lot lights were retrofitted with LEDs.  Skylights were preserved and enhanced to provide natural lighting.

Paper use has been reduced 31%, water consumption has been cut 19%, energy consumption has been reduced 31%, and greenhouse gas emissions have been lowered by 12%.  The school generates 12% of its energy needs on campus with wind and solar, and purchases the rest from wind and solar sources.

Bethany participates in schoolwide recycling, accounting for a diversion of 24% of waste from the local landfill.  Food scraps from the cafeteria are composted and used in the student-tended school garden, which provides fresh produce for the school’s salad bar, as well as an opportunity for students to learn about gardening and sustainable living.  The school’s biannual fish fry fundraiser has become an opportunity to educate students and the general public about sustainable practices, with food scraps and paper products composted, rather than going in the trash.

In the lower school, students study traditional energy and environmental concepts, while taking advantage of a multitude of field trips to local parks and environmental centers.  In high school, Bible classes address issues of environmental sustainability and most students take Environmental Science.  A highlight of this course includes two weeks outdoors studying the plants and organisms in the school retention pond, which was planted with native species in 2006 by students.  At the beginning of the school year, most students participate in one to two days of activities outdoors, including outdoor camps and wilderness experiences, featuring canoeing, climbing, cooking, shelter and fire building, orienteering, and outdoor cooperative activities.

You can view the list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, and read a report with highlights on the 63 honorees on the ED website. All schools can find resources to move toward the three Pillars on ED’s Green Strides.

Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.

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Categories: Higher Education News

A Passion for Her Students’ Success: National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee

May 30, 2017 - 1:00pm

At the end of each school year, I use my final class to share a last lecture on things I learned from my students.  They are generally surprised by the concept of a teacher learning, but teachers are by nature learners, always seeking new opportunities to grow.

Recently, I had one of those opportunities when the 2017 state teachers of the year visited the Department of Education.  These teachers are wonderful representatives of the best talent in the teaching profession, and I gleaned so much from my discussions with these exceptional educators.  While they all come from diverse locations and experiences, they all exhibit core characteristics that all teachers can learn from.

These characteristics were apparent throughout a conversation with Sydney Chaffee, who was recently announced as the 2017 National Teacher of the Year.  The first thing that stood out to me about Sydney was her passion for her students.  She managed to always bring our discussion back to her students, and in doing so, her passion for their success was unmistakable.

This love of helping students was born in Sydney early in her life, as she talked fondly about the wonderful teachers she had during her childhood.  These teachers made learning, “feel so alive, like it was on fire,” and Sydney decided at a young age that she wanted to foster that same love of learning for students.

I asked Sydney what keeps her inspired in her work, and the quick answer was simply, “the kids.”  She spoke of how she teaches for “the moment,” the one where students gasp in wonder, make new connections, and “do things they thought they couldn’t do.”  Sydney perfectly captured the passion of great teachers for their students when she said, “the work is hard, but the results are beautiful.”

As a result of Sydney’s passion for students, the guiding principle of her approach to teaching is something that is true of every great teacher I know – a focus on developing relationships with her students.  She said that in her classroom, “relationships are at the center of everything.”

She wants her students to learn and grow, and it is her belief that learning requires a willingness to take risks.  As a result, relationships with her students form the bedrock of her pedagogy as she seeks to create safe places for her students that are grounded in the trust that can only develop through authentic care and concern for students as individuals.

Sydney also demonstrates the collegiality and professionalism of great teachers.  When I asked her about the experience of being selected as National Teacher of the Year, the first thing she wanted to talk about was how honored and humbled she was to be part of the group of four finalists for the award.  Instead of talking about herself, she wanted to talk about how she was in awe of her fellow teachers.

A large part of this excitement about her colleagues is grounded in another characteristic of great teachers – the desire to learn and grow as a professional.  The teachers of the year had nearly an entire week together in Washington, DC, and Sydney said one of her favorite moments was learning the history of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from one of her fellow teachers during a bus trip.  She said it is also one of the reasons she is so passionate about teaching humanities, as she believes that the “answers to our problems” can often be found by learning about the past.

Finally, like all great teachers, Sydney is also constantly seeking to engage stakeholders in the work of bettering educational outcomes for all students.  She believes parents and guardians have a “critically important role in conversations about education,” and she hopes as National Teacher of the Year to encourage families to become as involved as they can in their community schools.

To her fellow teachers, Sydney wants to share the message that they “don’t have to be perfect all the time,” but should instead focus on working together to grow and continuously improve.  And she hopes teachers and families will be joined in their efforts by policymakers at all levels of government listening to students and teachers and spending real, meaningful time in classrooms.

Of all the lessons I learned from Sydney and the other teachers of the year, this final point made the deepest impression.  The task of making learning feel like it is “on fire” for students may start with great teachers, but it also requires the full commitment and engagement of all stakeholders to ensure educational excellence for every child.

Patrick Kelly teaches at Blythewood High School in Columbia, SC and is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

Photo at the top: Teaching Ambassador Fellow Patrick Kelly interviews National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee.

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Categories: Higher Education News

The President’s Budget: Simplifying Funding for Postsecondary Education

May 23, 2017 - 4:00pm

“Go forth into the world and turn your hopes and dreams into action. America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers.” – President Trump, Liberty University 2017 Commencement


In today’s world, one important key to success – one way for more Americans to turn their dreams into action – is to gain the postsecondary education and credentials that careers and employers require.

Millions of students and families want to make this investment in their future, but the college marketplace and student loan financing can be confusing.

That’s why the President’s 2018 budget proposal lays out plans to streamline and simplify federal aid, saving taxpayers $143 billion over the next decade while insulating current borrowers from changes to their loan programs. The proposed changes in repayment and loan forgiveness plans will apply only to new borrowers after July 1, 2018. Those who are currently repaying loans or who continue their current course of study can still count on their current repayment and loan forgiveness programs remaining in place.

Some of the highlights of the new proposal:

  • Replacing five different income driven repayment plans with a single plan. The new consolidated repayment plan will help undergraduate borrowers pay back their loans more quickly. However, current borrowers’ plans would not be affected as the changes apply only to new borrowers after July 1, 2018.

  • Providing Year-Round Pell and increasing available Pell aid by $16.3 billion over 10 years. The President’s request maintains discretionary funding for Pell grants at its current level, and reinstates the availability of year-round Pell funding, all while safeguarding the financial future of the Pell Grant program. As Secretary DeVos has said, this commonsense solution will enable more students to further their educations without taking on additional debt.

  • Helping low-income, first-generation and other disadvantaged students prepare for and complete college. With over $808 million for the Federal TRIO Programs and $219 million for GEAR UP, the budget yields savings of $193 million from the current year’s actual funding levels and reduces funding in areas that have failed to demonstrate an impact in improving student outcomes, while providing important support for vulnerable college hopefuls.

  • Investing $492 million in colleges and universities that serve diverse students. The funds will support the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority-Serving Institutions, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions through programs under Titles III and V of the Higher Education Act. These programs help narrow gaps in enrollment and degree attainment by improving the academic programs, institutional capacity and student support services at colleges and universities that serve students of color and low-income students in high numbers.

By taking these and other steps, the Trump Administration’s budget aims to help more students and families afford the quality college education that can turn their dreams into action and their talents into success.

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Categories: Higher Education News

The President’s Budget: Maintaining Support for our Most Vulnerable Students

May 23, 2017 - 2:00pm

We must never lose sight of our mission: providing each child with the chance to pursue a great education in a safe and nurturing environment.” – Secretary Betsy DeVos, March 20, 2017


President Trump believes that every student – regardless of background or circumstance – deserves to fulfill his or her potential. High-quality educational opportunities are critical when it comes to achieving that goal, especially for our most vulnerable students and communities.

That’s why the President prioritized protecting students from traditionally underserved groups in his 2018 Budget, especially by providing consistent, level funding of:

  • $14.9 billion for the core Title I Grants to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), which will support state and local efforts to ensure students in high-poverty schools have access to rigorous coursework and teaching. Title I Grants impact more than 25 million students, as the Trump Administration works toward helping all students meet challenging state academic standards.

  • $12.7 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which will maintain funding for support services that help America’s 6.8 million children with disabilities. In addition to highlighting best practices in educating students with disabilities – like the MI Hidden Talent initiative – Secretary DeVos has highlighted the importance of empowering “families with the supports they need in the learning environments that best suit their children’s individual needs.” This funding will help states in their ongoing work to design and implement improvement efforts under the Department’s Results Driven Accountability Framework.

  • $736 million for the English Language Acquisition program, which will implement effective language instruction educational programs that help students attain English Language proficiency.

The Budget also includes $492 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Minority-Serving (MSI), and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) through the Higher Education Act under Titles III and V. Secretary DeVos has recognized these institutions for their continued efforts to ensure all students have access to a world-class education. Through this investment, the Trump Administration hopes that more of tomorrow’s teachers, doctors, judges, engineers and other professionals will emerge from HBCUs, MSIs, and HSIs.

In today’s 21st century economy, we can’t afford to waste even one day in building American’s talent and potential. The FY 2018 budget will protect the nation’s most valuable asset – its people – by making good on its commitment to all students, with additional help for the most vulnerable.

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Categories: Higher Education News

The President’s Budget: Empowering Parents by Expanding Education Choice

May 23, 2017 - 12:00pm

“Our nation’s commitment is to provide a quality education to every child to serve the public, common good. Accordingly, we must shift the paradigm to think of education funding as investments made in individual children, not in institutions or buildings.”– Secretary Betsy DeVos, March 29, 2017


From the beginning, the Trump Administration’s number one education priority has been to help ensure every student in America has an equal opportunity for a great education. Realizing that vision begins with giving parents more control and greater options. The President takes significant steps toward that goal with his 2018 budget, restoring decision-making power back to parents and state and local leaders – those who are closest to individual students and best equipped to address the unique challenges these students face every day.

Specifically, the budget supports the expansion of education choice and refocuses the Department’s funding priorities by making the following investments:

  • $1 billion increase for new Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS) grants. FOCUS funds are new dollars to support making sure each student, especially low-income students, has access to a public education that meets his or her needs. These funds are tied to the student, making sure the investment is made in him or her as an individual, not in a building or system.

  • $250 million increase for private school choice. Increased funds for the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program, a competitive award for applicants to provide scholarships for students from low-income families to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.

  • $167 million increase for public school choice. Increased funds for the Charter Schools program to strengthen State efforts to start new charter schools or expand and replicate existing high-performing charter schools, while providing up to $100 million to meet the growing demand for charter school facilities.

This expansion of parental choice will especially benefit our most underserved communities, whose students are often trapped in schools that fail to meet their needs. By empowering these parents with choices, they’ll be able to choose an educational environment for their kids where they can grow and thrive.

State and local leaders know the individual students and their communities. Yet onerous regulations passed down from the federal government to state leaders have hindered rather than promoted student success. By removing these barriers, America’s students will be better prepared to bring about a new era of creativity and ingenuity to thrive in the 21st century.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Police Week: Appreciating Our Peace Officers and the Role of Career and Technical Education

May 19, 2017 - 9:38am


President John F. Kennedy, in 1962, proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which it falls as Police Week.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is proud to once again celebrate Police Week and to especially thank the police who help keep schools safe. In addition, ED recognizes the important role that career and technical education (CTE) plays in preparing people for a law enforcement career.

CTE, which is led in ED by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, is a program that combines technical and academic knowledge. Today’s – and tomorrow’s – law enforcement professional must know physics, mathematics and computer science as well as technical problem-solving.

And just as our laws protect the structure of our society, CTE is a cornerstone for preparing the people who will enforce these laws. Police officer, correctional officer, information security specialist, rescue worker and immigration and customs inspector are among the high-demand careers in our nation’s high school and college CTE programs.

Officer Xavier Leake of Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department knows the value of combining technical and academic education first-hand through the district’s Cadet program. “Being in the Cadet program helped me get the knowledge and field experience I needed to be successful,” Leake said. “I learned policy and procedure, but I also learned how to develop as a good person and a great officer.”

High school CTE programs have grown in popularity for young people who want to follow in the path of Officer Leake and his law enforcement colleagues throughout the country. In high school CTE programs, student participation in law, public safety and security courses has increased at a nearly double-digit rate, from 99,041 students in 2014 to 108,776 in 2015. At the college level, student participation in these programs has remained steady between 2014 and 2015 at just over 182,000. These high school and college programs, taken together, represent the third-largest career category (behind health care and business) chosen by students participating in CTE programs.

States also have tools and resources to help individuals prepare for, and advance, in law enforcement careers. For example, Washington state offers Career Bridge, an award-winning website featuring over 6,500 of the state’s education programs, state labor-market data, a career quiz for students to assess their interests, and, when data are available, performance results for thousands of education programs – including participation, completion, entry into the workforce and earnings.

CTE educators look forward to continuing to play a role behind the scenes in preparing law enforcement professionals for their careers. And this week, the people of ED express deep gratitude to all police officers as they step up to serve, protect, and defend us all.

Kim R. Ford is a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Photo at the top is the White House illuminated blue in honor of Police Officers Memorial Day and Police Week.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Staff Selfies with Secretary DeVos

May 15, 2017 - 10:10am

As new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been settling in to her new job, she has been meeting ED career staff and learning about their contributions to the agency.  Several quick-fingered staffers have snapped fun, informal photos and selfies with ED’s new leader, and Inside ED has collected several of their smiling photos here.

Carolyn Dempster of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer shows off her one-handed selfie skills with DeVos.


Gerardo Romero of Federal Student Aid (FSA) smiles with the Secretary.

ED’s interns have gotten in photos with DeVos, including Trent Allen of the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE).


Lawrence Lanwehr (shaking hands) and Keith Wilson of FSA were pleased to greet DeVos on her tour of Union Center Plaza.


Jason Cottrell of OPE got to show off his University of Virginia tie in his photo with the secretary.


This group photo features (L-R) Jennifer Myers of the Office of Management (OM), Wanda Davis of OM, C.J. Hair-Jones of OM, Karolyn Cook, the secretary, Joshua Hoover of the Office of Communications and Outreach, and Denise Carter of OM.


OM’s Myers also snapped a one-on-one photo with DeVos.


Christopher McCormick of OPE (in orange tie at left) got to chat with the secretary with quite a crowd looking on!


FSA’s Farzad Aidun matched smiles with DeVos at UCP.

Jim Mould (left) and Cynthia Dorfman (second from left) of OCO, along with other LBJ-based employees, greet the secretary on the fifth floor.


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Categories: Higher Education News

Important Information about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

May 12, 2017 - 9:09am

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) on fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov will be unavailable until extra security protections can be added. While we are working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible, students, families, and borrowers should plan for the tool to be offline until the start of the next FAFSA season.

In the interim, please continue to complete the FAFSA or apply for income-driven repayment by manually providing your tax information.

Here’s what you should know:

1. You can still submit the FAFSA online at fafsa.gov.
  • You will need to manually provide your 2015 tax information in order to complete the FAFSA.
  • DO NOT use 2016 tax information. We recently changed the FAFSA process and now require earlier tax information. For more information: StudentAid.gov/fafsa-changes.
  • If your financial situation has changed since 2015, you should complete the FAFSA using the information it requires (2015 tax info), then contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss your circumstances. The financial aid office can make updates to your FAFSA information if appropriate.
  • If you don’t have a copy of your 2015 tax return, access the tax software you used to prepare the return or contact your tax preparer to obtain a copy.
  • If you still can’t access your return, you can get a summary of a previously filed tax return, called a tax transcript, at irs.gov/transcript.

If you are using your 2015 income tax return to manually enter information on your FAFSA, the FAFSA instructions provide guidance on which line number to reference depending on the IRS tax form you filed. That information is also provided in the table below. For more specific guidance on each item, visit fafsa.gov/help.htm. If you’re using a tax transcript, there won’t be line numbers to reference, so read each question carefully.

2015 Income Tax Item 1040 1040A 1040EZ Adjusted gross income (AGI) Line 37 Line 21 Line 4 Income tax Line 56 minus line 46 Line 28 minus line 36 Line 10 Exemptions 6d 6d See details. Wages earned from working Line 7*

*Unless you are self-employed. See details. Line 7 Line 1 Education credits Line 50 Line 33 N/A IRA deductions and payments to self-employed SEP, SIMPLE, Keogh, and other qualified plans Line 28 + Line 32 Line 17 N/A Tax-exempt interest income Line 8b Line 8b N/A Untaxed portions of IRA distributions Line 15a minus line 15b

Exclude rollovers Line 11a minus line 11b

Exclude rollovers N/A Untaxed portions of pensions Line 16a minus line 16b

Exclude rollovers Line 12a minus line 12b

Exclude rollovers N/A Untaxed portions of health savings accounts Line 25 N/A N/A Form W-2 Item Boxes Payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans Boxes 12a through 12d, codes D, E, F, G, H and S

Don’t include amounts reported in code DD (employer contributions toward employee health benefits) 2. You can still apply for and recertify your income-driven payments on StudentLoans.gov.

  • While the IRS Data Retrieval Tool is unavailable, there is an additional step you may need to take to apply for or recertify your income-driven payments.
  • After you complete and submit the online income-driven repayment application on StudentLoans.gov, you’ll be instructed to submit income documentation to your federal loan servicer.
  • Valid income documentation may include a copy of your tax return, copies of pay stubs, or other acceptable forms of documentation explained online in the application process.
  • The easiest way to submit documentation to your servicer is to log in to your servicer’s website and upload the documentation in your online account.
  • If you need to recertify your income-driven payments, start the process early! Your servicer will inform you of your recertification deadline. Make sure you submit any documentation required by that deadline. If you don’t, your payments will increase, often significantly.
Frequently Asked Questions:

When will the IRS Data Retrieval Tool be available?

Students, families, and borrowers should plan for the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to be offline until the start of the next FAFSA season.

Do not wait until the tool is available to fill out your FAFSA; you can enter your tax information manually on fafsa.gov. Do not wait to apply for an income-driven repayment plan, or recertify your income-driven payments; you can provide documentation of your tax information in place of using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.


What if I don’t have a copy of my 2015 tax return?

If you don’t have a copy of your 2015 tax return, access the tax software you used to prepare the return or contact your tax preparer to obtain a copy.

If you still can’t access your return, you can get a summary of a previously filed tax return, called a tax transcript, at www.irs.gov/transcript. If you’re applying for or recertifying for an income-driven repayment plan, you can use your transcript as documentation of your income.


Will my FAFSA deadline be extended?

You need to ask your school’s financial aid office how they will handle upcoming deadlines.

That said, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool being down does not prevent you from filling out the FAFSA. Regardless of how your school decides to handle any upcoming FAFSA deadlines, we highly recommend submitting your FAFSA as soon as possible to avoid financial aid issues and delays.


Will my deadline to recertify my income-driven repayment plan be extended?

No. You should still recertify your income-driven repayment plan by the deadline listed in communications you receive from your federal student loan servicer. We recommend starting the process as soon as you get your recertification notice to avoid any issues.

Contact your servicer if you have questions or need help. If you need to locate contact information for your servicer, visit StudentAid.gov/login.

Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News

3 Tips for Understanding and Comparing Financial Aid Offers

May 10, 2017 - 8:30am

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to multiple schools. Now you need to determine which schools are most affordable so you can factor school cost into your decision. If you listed a school on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and have been offered admission by that school, the school’s financial aid office will send you a financial aid offer. The amounts and types of aid you’re offered will likely vary from school to school, so it’s important to compare your financial aid offers. Here are a few tips and resources to make understanding and comparing your financial aid offers easier.

1. Know the different types of aid

The financial aid offer includes the types and amounts of aid you may receive from federal, state, private, and school sources. Types of aid include free money that does not have to be paid back (grants and scholarships), money you borrow and must pay back with interest (loans), and money you can earn working a part-time job to help pay for education expenses (work-study). You may see any combination of these types of aid in your financial aid offer. Learn more about the different types of aid. If you’re curious, you can also learn how schools calculate the amounts of aid they offer you.

2. Understand each school’s net cost

Net cost is an estimate of the actual cost that you and your family need to pay in a given year to cover education expenses for you to attend a particular school. It is calculated by taking the school’s cost of attendance and subtracting any grants and scholarships you’ve been awarded. The net cost is the amount you will have to pay out of pocket. The net cost is the dollar amount you’ll want to compare across different schools to determine which school is most affordable.

Thousands of schools use the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet to present financial aid offers. But, some schools use a different format to present financial aid offers, making it difficult to compare net costs across schools. To help with this, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) developed an interactive comparison tool to help you compare your financial aid offers.

3. Make sure you can cover the net cost

Because the net cost is the amount of money you’ll have to pay out of pocket, it is important to make sure that you have resources to cover the net cost. Scholarships, earnings from work-study or a part-time job, personal savings, gifts, and loans are resources you can use to help cover the net cost.

While loans can help cover your net cost, you should borrow only what you need. You don’t have to accept all of the loans you’re offered—and you don’t have to accept the full amount of any particular loan.

You may also be interested in 7 options to consider if you didn’t receive enough financial aid.

Things to remember when understanding and comparing your financial aid offers:
  • There are different types of aid—grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study.
  • The amounts and types of aid you’re offered may vary from school to school.
  • Calculate your net cost by subtracting the grants and scholarships you’ve been awarded from the school’s cost of attendance.

Mia Johnson is a Management and Program Analyst for the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News

8 Things to Do After You Fill Out the FAFSA® Form

May 8, 2017 - 8:30am

So, you’ve completed the 2017–18 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. It’s time to sit back and wait for your financial aid offers, right? Not quite. In fact, there’s still plenty to do! Here are 8 things you need to do AFTER you submit your application.


1. Find your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Your EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. If your application is complete, your EFC will display in the upper right-hand corner of your Student Aid Report (SAR). If your application is incomplete, your SAR will not include an EFC, but it will tell you what you need to do to resolve any issues.

To understand how the EFC is used, review the following formula, which is what schools use to determine your federal student aid eligibility and your financial aid offer:

Cost of Attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial need

Schools then do their best to meet your financial need (not your full cost of attendance), but some schools are able to cover more than others.

Learn how aid is calculated.

2. Double-check with the schools you listed on your FAFSA form

Be sure to follow up with the financial aid offices at the schools you applied to. Sometimes schools need additional paperwork or have other internal deadlines. By not following up, you could be leaving money on the table!

3. Make corrections or updates if you need to

It’s important to make sure that all of your FAFSA data is correct and complete. Most information can’t be updated because it must reflect your situation as of the day you originally signed your application, but there are certain items that must be updated if they change.

Many people make a correction to their FAFSA form because they want to add or remove a school. If you found another school that you’d like to make your FAFSA information available to, log in to fafsa.gov and add that school to your list. Remember, you can list 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these instructions.

Find out how to make changes to your FAFSA information.

4. Keep prospective schools aware of any major changes to your family’s financial situation

You’ve already submitted your 2017–18 FAFSA form so you know that you had to report income from 2015. If your family’s situation has changed in a major way since then, you can request a professional judgment review from your school. Contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend if your family has any other special circumstances that affect your financial situation.

5. Apply for scholarships

Some schools are not able to meet every student’s financial need; therefore, there may be a gap between what the school offers you and what the school costs. Scholarships are a great way to fill this gap because they’re gifts—meaning they don’t need to be repaid!

Find and apply for as many scholarships as you can. You’ll probably have a lot of time between when you submit your FAFSA form and when you start receiving aid offers. Aim to apply for at least one scholarship a week. There are thousands of them, offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations, so you have no excuse not to apply.

6. Compare school aid offers

You can follow these steps to determine which school will be most affordable.

  1. Find the COA for your program on the aid offer. If a school doesn’t list the COA on the aid offer, contact their financial aid office. Be sure that amount includes direct expenses (tuition and fees) as well as other costs such as living expenses, books and supplies, and transportation.
  2. Subtract any grant and scholarship amounts from the COA. The number you’re left with is your out-of-pocket, or net, cost.
  3. Compare the net costs for schools you are considering.

Your aid offer might include student loans, so it’s very important that you compare the amount of debt you’d be taking on at each school. This comparison tool offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can help you compare the aid offers you received.

7. Consider what aid to accept
  • The rule is: free money first (scholarships and grants), then earned money (work-study), and then borrowed money (federal student loans).
  • If you need to borrow money, figure out which loans offer you the best terms. Remember, it’s perfectly okay to accept less loan money than a school offers. Borrow only what you need.
8. Figure out how you’ll fill your financial aid gap

We’ve already touched on applying for scholarships, but there are other options to consider if you didn’t receive enough financial aid. Be sure to contact your school’s financial aid office. They can help you assess your options.

Nick Dvorscak is a Management and Program Analyst for Federal Student Aid.

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Categories: Higher Education News

National Reentry Week: Our Visit to SCI-Pine Grove’s College in Prison Classroom

May 4, 2017 - 8:30am

“Education Is the Most Powerful Weapon Which You Can Use to Change the World” — Nelson Mandela

National Reentry Week was April 23-29, during which Pennsylvania Department of Corrections leadership visited a program that history very well may judge has the most effective intervention yet at reducing the likelihood of future crimes being committed by individuals coming through our system.  It’s a program that’s been changing lives since its inception – a program that many of us have completed.  This program is called a college education.

Pennsylvania is fortunate to have four such programs operating in prisons across the state.  On Tuesday, I was joined by the President of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Dr. Michael Driscoll at State Correctional Institution Pine Grove, where we were honored to sit in on a college class.

The class was facilitated by IUP faculty member Dr. Randy Martin and we both witnessed and interacted with the students who are participating in the criminal justice 101 class.  I want to acknowledge the leadership of Pine Grove Superintendent Eric Bush and his team, in particular, for their commitment to making this important program successful.

We experienced a learning environment with engaged and inquisitive students seeking knowledge beyond the book.  Dr. Martin shared that the writing submission assignments of the inmate students were more reflective of graduate level work than that of college freshmen.

Perhaps the most impactful moment was when we asked for feedback and advice about this program from the students.  The first words spoken were sincere gratitude for the opportunity, and the simple fact that they were judged “worthy”, in their words, to participate, changed how they thought of themselves.

The students also expressed that learning gave them the hunger to know and achieve more and a belief that they have options.  Hope abounded at last.

We left the classroom shaking the outreached hands of every student inside that prison in the middle of Pennsylvania, buoyed by the experience and resolute in the need to continue providing transformative educational experiences inside prisons. This perhaps is our best chance to reduce recidivism and allow individuals leaving our system to do so with a real chance for a different lifestyle, and as more prepared human beings than when they entered.


John E. Wetzel is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Corrections.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Cleveland’s Project Lead the Way Is Making a Real World Impact

May 2, 2017 - 8:30am

In the coming decades students will join a workforce that is creative and innovative; many of them will use computers and technology to solve real-world problems. Students will need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to help them take risks, collaborate and devise solutions—proficiencies they need for college and careers.

Recognizing the importance of developing these tools for life, the open enrollment Cleveland Metropolitan Public School (CMSD) District, led by CEO (Superintendent) Eric Gordon, gives students in eight District high schools the opportunity to participate in Project Lead the Way (PLTW). PLTW, a program from a nonprofit organization that provides transformative learning experiences for students and teachers, was highlighted by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos as “a great example of how [local education agencies] are leveraging federal, state and local funds to best serve children.”

Students in Project Lead the Way are excited about their studies because the classes are mainly immersive learning experiences. While they explore topics like 3-D printing and modeling, robotics, coding, digital electronics and building design, they often break into small groups and create models, construct and test machines or build robots that let them see the importance of working together and thinking critically to solve real-world problems. Projects expose them to the importance of creativity and innovation— in-demand skills they need for jobs of the future, some that have yet to be created.

CMSD Career and Technical Education Director Annette Darby said that PLTW is considered to be an elective and takes four courses to fully complete the program.  “Superintendent Gordon wanted to deliberately focus on career and technical education because it’s emphasized in The Cleveland Plan,” she said. The Plan calls for broadening access to internships, apprenticeships, applied learning, and career tech programs and preparing students to enter the workforce as well as to enroll in college, and PLTW does just that.

The Project Lead the Way program is supported by several community partners who provide funding, field trips, scholarships and internships. Some of the partners include ArcelorMittal, Rockwell Automation, Junior National Society of Black Engineers, Cleveland Water Department, Regional Information Technology Engagement Board and General Motors. These companies see the need to educate young people and encourage careers in their businesses.

Recently, while following some students who had already graduated from the PLTW program (a requirement that the state applies to local schools that use Carl D. Perkins funding for CTE STEM classes), Darby became aware of a student who had graduated from the James Ford Rhodes High School’s certified PLTW program. The student was employed and recruited by a local engineering company that has offered to pay for him to take classes leading to a college degree in engineering.

“PLTW prepares students,” Darby said. “It is very much hands-on. Students can get scholarships, earn college credit; partnerships with businesses are so important.”

Some high schools’ PLTW programs receive certification, which provides students with the opportunity to apply for college credit or receive college-level recognition at PLTW affiliate universities. So far, two of the CMSD programs have certification – James Ford Rhodes and most recently East Tech High School.

This year, the Rhodes robotics team has advanced to the VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville, KY. This competition, now entering its 10th year, will bring together the top 1,400 student-led robotics teams from around the world.

Students today need access to real-world, applied learning experiences. Thanks to PLTW students have more opportunities to become confident, independent thinkers, ready to excel in today’s economy.


Sherry Schweitzer is a communications specialist in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Together We Soar Higher; The U.S. Department of Education Receives a Gratitude Quilt by Children From Military Families

April 27, 2017 - 8:30am

“Together we soar higher.” This Ashland Elementary School motto set the tone for a recent ceremony at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The occasion was to celebrate the Month of the Military Child and to accept the donation of two commemorative quilts to ED by the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) and three Prince William County Public Schools — Ashland, Henderson, and Pattie elementary schools. Attendees included student artists, counselors, and Ashland’s principal, as well as representatives from MCEC, military school liaisons, the Department of Defense Education Activity Educational Partnership Grant Program, and ED staff.

“This event is an enactment of ‘it takes a village,’” remarked Jackye Zimmermann, ED’s director of editorial policy, publications, and the Student Art Exhibit Program­­­, who opened the event. Thanks to a collaboration — of 54 student artists, parents, school counselors, principals, grant providers, ED staff, and others — ED’s lobby now features a reminder of the unique experiences and needs of military children. The teamwork involved in this project, Zimmermann noted, “represents the teamwork that takes place within the military community in behalf of the country and the world.”

Amanda Woodyard, MCEC student transition consultant, said the project “was intended to be a meaningful way for [students] to express themselves … their only instruction was to just say ‘thank you.’” Since participating students had parents either on active duty or deployed overseas, this project was important for bringing the students together to jointly express their emotions as military children.

Adenia Kitt discusses how she pieced together the quilts.

Students included Kaleb Eisenman, whose dad is deployed to Iraq, and Coco Bouchat, whose dad is deployed to South Korea. Each child wrote an individual thank you on a fabric square, and Adenia Kitt sewed the pieces together to create a quilt entitled “An Elementary Patriotic Thank You.” Another quilt sewn by Kitt, entitled “The We Serve Quilt,” features images of branches of the military. Woodyard offered these quilts as a donation to ED’s permanent art collection.

Principal Andy Jacks from Ashland Elementary School encouraged the audience to remember that every month is the month of military children because every day these kids “serve alongside their families” in their own way. The responsibility of his school, he says, is to provide a community of support for military children and their families, which it achieves through service projects such as this.

“School communities like Ashland, and others in Prince William County, are examples for the rest of the nation: They show how to best support our military students, which advances our military’s mission and our children’s education,” remarked Jason Botel, ED’s acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, upon accepting the donation. On behalf of Secretary Betsy DeVos, Botel expressed his gratitude for the men and women who serve our nation, as well as for their families.

The Department, through its Military Affairs Team, will continue to work with the military community to address the educational needs of military children and help ease their transitions from one school to the next because, just as at Ashland, as a nation “together we can soar higher.”

Students from Ashland Elementary School write each other kind notes.

Before leaving the Department, students wrote kind notes to each other sitting at the foot of another piece of artwork, this one entitled “Kindness Tree: Sticks and Stones,” to further show the values at work in military communities. This piece was donated to ED by Mountain Laurel Montessori School and now sits next to the quilt exhibit.

The tree reminds those who pass by that kindness and teamwork are central to everyone’s work in education so that all students overcome obstacles and reach their potential. The Kindness Tree is also now in ED’s permanent art collection, providing ED employees and visitors the opportunity to write more notes of kindness.

Photo at the top shows Ashwood Elementary School students and faculty join Adenia Kitt (far right), military school liaisons, and MCEC and ED staff in front of the donated quilts.

Molly Howlett is an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

All photos are by U.S. Department of Education photographer Leslie Williams. More photos from the event may be viewed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/128781046@N08/sets/72157682765020795/with/33278963484/.

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Categories: Higher Education News

Learning for Life: Dual Enrollment in Florida is a Win for the State

April 25, 2017 - 8:30am

Getting the proverbial “jumpstart” on career success is beneficial to our nation’s students and serves as a great tool to explore interests. While there are numerous programs around the country, the state of Florida is a standout with a decades-long history of success with accelerated learning opportunities dating back to the 1970s.

Dual enrollment allows high school students an opportunity to take postsecondary courses and receive both high school and postsecondary credits.  Educators, students and parents laud the programs, which widen the path toward success.

Just in the last five years, about 60,000 students a year have benefited from the Florida Dual Enrollment program which was enacted by the Florida Education Finance Program.  According to the state’s education website, the program speeds up the way students can obtain associate degrees or industry certifications by taking postsecondary coursework while attending school. Many students have gone on directly to successful careers, while others have opted to continue their education in four-year institutions.

ED Secretary Betsy DeVos was impressed with the program’s success during a recent visit to Florida, noting a great example at Valencia College in Kissimmee. “The dual-enrollment and advanced manufacturing programs are creating impressive opportunities for students,” she emphasized.

While visiting the school, DeVos spoke with two aspiring doctors who said the dual enrollment program helped shorten the time they would need to spend attaining their goals. During a roundtable discussion another student told her that she will have almost completed her freshman year of college by the time she graduates from high school. Another said that participating in the program will help save her parents money for college tuition.

“We’ve seen an increasing number of students participate over the years,” said Todd Clark, director of the Office of Articulation. “Dual enrollment is something that schools get incentives for — financial incentives for teachers and accountability incentives for having students in acceleration programs. As the programs continue to grow, we look carefully at how we manage the program and closely monitor student outcomes.”

Clark says the program is growing because the schools are doing a good job spreading the word, and the program is successful, which is then spread by word of mouth. This translates into support from local taxpayers who see the value.

The program is offered to students from 6th grade through their senior year. “The challenge is to make sure that students take dual enrollment classes that will really help them, versus something that they are just interested in,” Clark said.

To be eligible for the dual enrollment program, a student must go to a Florida public, private or home school and not graduate prior to completing the course. For students pursuing the career option, a 2.0 GPA is required and for those planning to enroll in college credit courses, the requirement is a 3.0 GPA. There is no minimum GPA for home-schooled students. Students must also take a basic skills examination to participate.

There are hundreds of course offerings for students in virtually all career types, including public safety, clerical, technology, HVAC, media production, service industry, automotive, health sciences and more. Courses are offered year-round on the school campus, local career education centers and the local higher education sites. The dual enrollment classes, books and fees for the public postsecondary institutions are paid for by the school district and are free for students.

ED has research on the effectiveness of dual enrollment programs, which shows its value. Students and the public have attested to the value of the Florida Dual Enrollment Program and the choice it gives to students in pursuit of higher education.

Helen Littlejohn is a public affairs specialist in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

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Categories: Higher Education News